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Unpacking the Logic of Mathematical Statements

John Selden and Annie Selden
Educational Studies in Mathematics
Vol. 29, No. 2, Advanced Mathematical Thinking (Sep., 1995), pp. 123-151
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3482900
Page Count: 29
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Unpacking the Logic of Mathematical Statements
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Abstract

This study focuses on undergraduate students' ability to unpack informally written mathematical statements into the language of predicate calculus. Data were collected between 1989 and 1993 from 61 students in six small sections of a "bridge" course designed to introduce proofs and mathematical reasoning. We discuss this data from a perspective that extends the notion of concept image to that of statement image and introduces the notion of proof framework to indicate that part of a theorem's image which corresponds to the top-level logical structure of a proof. For simplified informal calculus statements, just 8.5% of unpacking attempts were successful; for actual statements from calculus texts, this dropped to 5%. We infer that these students would be unable to reliably relate informally stated theorems with the top-level logical structure of their proofs and hence could not be expected to construct proofs or validate them, i.e., determine their correctness.

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